EEF are delighted to have be involved in a regional seminar run by NYU Abu Dhabi, with Niobe Way, Professor of Developmental Psychology at New York University.
The regional seminar in Ethiopia is part of the highly popular and competitive course “Culture, Context & Psychology” that Professor Way runs at the Abu Dhabi campus annually. As part of her course, she brought her students to EEF to participate in a joint regional seminar, whereby her NYU students & EEF students participated in a number of workshops & cultural activities aimed at demolishing stereotypes & “seeing” the other for what they truly are. Due to the immense success of this joint seminar, this is now the third year that Professor Way has invited EEF to participate in her project.
This January, 16 NYU Abu Dhabi students taking Professor Way’s course visited Ethiopia for 4 days & participated in intensive workshops with 20 EEF students. The seminars and workshops centre on being able to tell a story fully, not solely focusing on a singular viewpoint. Indeed, Professor Way began the workshops by exploring with students how a singular approach has the potential to be damaging and narrow-minded, citing her research and the influential work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Brené Brown. Professor Way argues that a single viewpoint is restrictive and prejudicing; we regurgitate stereotypes rather than hearing from an individual and “seeing” them as they truly are. This desire to breakdown stereotypes & value an individual’s experience for what it is, rather than what society projects on to it has inspired Professor Niobe Way to teach rigorous interviewing techniques so enthusiastically on this NYU course of hers. NYU and EEF students worked together on an interview project, enabling students to develop meaningful, profound connections with one another, regardless of previous experience, background, age and other socio-economic divisions that often separate us, and thus demolishing barriers and stereotypes.
Professor Way began the first workshop by assuring all students involved that they would learn a valuable skill of interviewing without prejudice – which subsequently would help them as individuals, their communities and a broader society too. Students indeed developed a range of communication skills through these practical psychology workshops, which were held in a number of locations in Addis, including a visit to the EEF hostel. Students were also developing body language and active listening skills as they honed their face-to-face interviewing skills in a number of environments.
The workshops profoundly achieved their principal aim in demonstrating the power in connecting as human beings, despite the fact that we are moving towards an increasingly isolated, lonely world. Professor Way demonstrated through her workshops and interactive teaching style that the global crisis of connection, increased isolation, suicidal ideation and depression can be addressed by feeling truly listened to, understood, valued and “seen”. Professor Way also stressed the importance of asking “real” questions, without social filters – trying to avoid small talk, the “elephant in the room” concept, and social niceties.
Perhaps most remarkable about the success of these workshops, was that in a room of 36 students, only one had English as a first language. This was truly impressive, as it indicated the intelligence and dexterity of these young global citizens. The students participating were from India, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Egypt, Lithuania, the Philippines, Montenegro, Korea, China, Turkey and Australia.
After 2 days of intensive workshops & interviews in Addis, 10 EEF students and the NYU students travelled to Gondar to participate in a number of cultural activities & continue their field work assignments. This trip was particularly special for EEF students, as for most of them it was the first time they had ever been on an aeroplane. It also gave both the Ethiopian and NYU students an opportunity to share in visiting key historical monuments & learn about Ethiopian history together. They visited the UNESCO site of the Fasil Ghebbi fortress and palace compound, the Debre Berhan Selassie Church, a Women Crafts Training Centre and the UNESCO heritage site of the Simien Mountains National Park. The National Park was particularly stunning & gave students the chance to see wild Ethiopian Baboons up close in the wild. The shared experience on this trip fostered deep & meaningful friendships which made the evening of final presentations & farewells in Addis even more difficult.
Ultimately, this joint regional seminar created and fostered significant relationships between young people from all over the World, and enabled them to recognise how much they share in common and to value their differences too. Watching this significant educational process take place was a real pleasure.
EEF is truly honoured to have been a part of this unique educational project and to participate in Professor Way’s inspirational academic seminar; the emotional and academic learning for all involved was truly life-changing.
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